Amazon reserves “have fewer fires”

A study by scientists in the United States suggests that efforts to protect parts of the Brazilian Amazon rain forest – when backed by the authorities and supported with cash -- could be working, the journal Nature reported. Duke University researchers found that fewer fires are being lit to clear trees inside reserves than outside them.


In the study, published in the online science journal PLoS One, the researchers determined that the difference in fire numbers did not stem merely from the fact that reserves have fewer roads in them. “The reserves have a very big impact,” said researcher Stuart Pimm, even after the effects of roads, rainfall variation across the Amazon and El Niño droughts are taken into account.

The study also supports the Brazilian government’s recent move to create a string of reserves covering an area of 23,000 square kilometres along the BR-319, a road from Manaus in the state of Amazonas to Porto Velho in Rondônia. Very few fires have been spotted alongside the road, which currently is unpaved and frequently impassible.


However, an ongoing paving project will “cut a swathe straight into the heart of the forest”, according to the study’s author, Marion Adeney. The new reserves, announced last month, will join other federal and state reserves in an attempt to prevent the new road from becoming a corridor for deforestation.


Brazilian politicians have embraced reserves of various types in the past five years. The federal government has made them a key policy tool in avoiding deforestation, and some states are hoping that a market for carbon credits based on retaining forests will earn them money. José María da Silva, vice-president for South America at Conservation International, said that in states such as Amazonas, younger politicians “think that their legacy will be an economy based on a forest economy”.


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